Giving up coffee gave me more energy
Being an avid coffee drinker can feel like there’s a constant fire you need to fuel – a fire that Melbourne writer SEAN IRVING knows all too well. Constantly grabbing another cup of coffee throughout the day turned into a well-worn habit. He explains why he gave up coffee for six months and what changes he noticed during the process.
I used to consume four or five cups of coffee a day. It was something I relied on in order to wake up in the morning. I would then pace my consumption throughout the day as my energy crashed and peaked. I certainly got tricked into thinking I was getting energy through the caffeine. It was a habit that translated to time away from my desk at work. It’s hard to say whether I got used to the caffeine or the actual act of getting out of the office to get a coffee.
A couple of my friends decided to see if we could quit coffee. And to obviously see if we could save some money as well. It was a little bit of a competition between all of us. I think it ended up being a draw. Two of us managed to go without caffeine for about six or seven months. I lasted about six months, which was pretty good.
I quit cold turkey and was really militant about it. I quit caffeine altogether – any form of caffeine, including headache medication and anything else. Headache tablets sometimes have caffeine in them to help you metabolise them quicker. So if you take some tablets to stop the caffeine withdrawal headaches you’ll get, they might actually contain caffeine themselves.
I felt absolutely exhausted for the first week. Everyone went through a similar period of hating themselves, especially when the immediate withdrawal symptoms kicked in – the headaches, the mood swings and general feelings of irritability. After that week, the turnaround was really remarkable and it felt like it was one of the best decisions we’d all made in a while.
Once I saw the benefits, it was reassuring. After the first week, I started to notice less frequent headaches associated with missing caffeine. I stopped feeling like I needed to go grab a cup of coffee. I felt a general sense of peace, a broad sense of calm, that probably had something to do with not having the anxiety-inducing effects of caffeine.
My quality of sleep was better. It was deeper and more restful, which in turn gave me more energy throughout the day. Before I stopped, it was a pretty standard daily occurrence to have a coffee in the late afternoon. I thought I was immune to the effects of the caffeine, but I’d go to bed around 10 or 11pm with my mind still racing and take a while to wind down.
It probably made me more productive. I could focus for longer stretches of time without having that constant up and down cycle of having no energy then being on a high. Instead of going out to get a coffee, I would take a break by walking around the block to clear my thoughts, or finding something beneficial to do to occupy that ten minute space.
I’m back to drinking coffee but definitely in moderation. I still have one in the mornings, but I’m more conscious of asking myself if it’s the coffee I want, or if it’s the ten minute break to collect my thoughts and consider whatever I have to tackle next in my working day.
I think it’s very easy to get into the cycle of relying on coffee. It’s a habit that becomes a need and then it’s pretty hard to turn around from that point. It’s very easy to over-do. Obviously, it’s not something that is too debilitating to your health, so there’s no stigma attached, but it’s definitely something to keep an eye on.
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